Breast milk is proven to be the optimum source of nourishment for babies, however, not every mom is blessed with abundant breast milk production. If you feel that you’re not producing enough for your baby, then here are some tips to increase breast milk supply.
Is my milk supply low?
Before you do any steps to increase your breast milk supply, it is essential to carefully assess whether you are really experiencing low milk supply or you’re simply assuming that it is.
Some of the signs that you’re experiencing may not be related to low breast milk production. Here are some examples.
False signs of low breast milk supply
Your baby is fussing or crying while nursing
Fussing or crying is your baby’s primary language during the first few months of life. It may be due to hunger, pain, or discomfort, but it is not indicative of a low breast milk supply.
Shorter or longer feedings
As babies get older, they learn how to suckle and feed more effectively. This skill enables them to feed more while spending a shorter time on the breast, but this doesn’t mean that they are getting less.
On the other hand, growth spurts can trigger an increase in the length or frequency of your baby’s feedings. Breast milk is designed to be digested faster, so feeding as frequently as every 1.5 to 2 hours is typical of breastfed babies.
Breastfed babies are also fond of comfort sucking, wherein they continue sucking their mom’s breast to feel secure and comfortable. Either way, spending a longer time at the breast isn’t an indicator of poor breast milk production.
Your breasts will feel heavier and larger by the time your milk comes in during the first few days of nursing. However, they will naturally become softer as your body adjusts to the level of milk supply that your baby needs.
Some mothers don’t experience milk let-down at all, but they manage to produce enough breast milk for their babies.
You’ve stopped linking milk, or the amount of leaking has decreased
Leaking is often noticed during the first few weeks of nursing. Similarly, this will naturally diminish as your body adjusts to the demand for milk.
Not getting much milk when your pump
This can be affected by various factors like the type of breast pump you use, the technique of pumping, and the time when you’ve done the pumping. So, it is not a sufficient basis for low milk supply.
Determining if you have enough breast milk supply is quite tricky because unlike formula, you can’t measure the exact amount of breast milk that your baby is taking. However, you can look after some indicators that your baby is feeding well.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), you can look after these signs that your baby is getting enough milk:
Your baby is gaining weight.
During their first week after birth, it is typical for babies to lose some weight. However, beginning the 2nd week, they are supposed to get back their birth weight and steadily gain weight thereafter. After your milk supply was established, your baby is expected to add up 0.5 to 1 ounce of weight every day until they reach 3 months of age.
Your baby needs frequent diaper changes.
Whatever comes in, comes out. So checking your baby’s urine and stools can be a good way to verify if he is taking in enough milk. As your milk comes in, your baby will usually have 6 or more wet and dirty diapers per day. Your baby’s stools are also expected to turn from black, to green, then yellow.
Milk is visible while feeding.
Your breast milk can be seen dripping or leaking at the corner of your baby’s mouth while feeding.
Your baby looks satisfied or fell asleep after feeding.
Breastfeeding must relax and satisfy your baby after feeding. Most of the time, breastfed infants fall asleep until their next feeding.
If your baby doesn’t meet these typical requirements of getting enough milk, it may be time to look after your breastfeeding practices, like latch and positioning, as well as your breast milk supply.
What causes low milk supply?
Your breast milk supply can be affected by various factors. Some possible causes of low milk supply include:
Low demand for milk
Breast milk supply is based on breast milk demand. It means the more you empty your breasts, the more milk that they will make. Ineffective latch and sucking, unnecessary supplementation with formula milk, and using pacifiers can all contribute to this problem. Strict feeding schedules and babies who are a bit sleepier may also affect your ability to produce enough breast milk.
Many mothers are fond of breastfeeding in a certain position which may leave the other side nursed less frequently and of course, producing a lesser amount of breast milk.
Breastfeeding mothers who have hormonal problems like diabetes and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) are more likely to have problems with their milk supply.
Similarly, your milk supply may lower if your baby has conditions that can interfere with breastfeeding like cleft lip and palate, tongue tie, and jaundice.
Scarring of breast tissue and milk ducts
Previous breast surgeries or nipple piercings that have affected the integrity of breast tissues and milk ducts may also experience difficulties in producing enough milk.
Some medications contain ingredients that can interfere with breast milk production. One example is pseudoephedrine, which is commonly found in your over-the-counter colds medications.
Tobacco smoke is not advisable for breastfeeding women because of its health risks and its chemical content may interfere with the production of breast milk.
Being worried too much can disrupt your lactating hormones and affect your breast milk supply. If you are a naturally anxious person, you may wish to discuss this with your doctor.
How To Increase Breast Milk Supply
The most common cause of low milk supply is the insufficient demand for milk. Since milk production works on a supply and demand basis, it is important to increase your demand for milk to tell your body to produce more. Experts suggest the following ways to increase breast milk supply.
Breastfeeding Techniques To Increase Milk Supply
Make sure your baby breastfeed effectively.
Check for your baby’s latch and positioning and make sure that they suckle effectively. Remove the things that can interfere with effective nursing like pacifiers and nipple shields.
Aim for frequent feedings.
The more frequent you remove the milk, the greater will be the demand. Frequent feedings are essential during the first few days of breastfeeding when your milk supply is being developed. Experts suggest making sure that you nurse at least every 1.5 to 2 hours to help increase your milk production.
Offer both sides when breastfeeding
This is to maximize the milk supply on both breasts. Switch nursing is a technique used to increase breast milk supply. To do it, you need to shift nursing from one side to another for at least three times while feeding your baby. Also, switch breasts as your baby moves to comfort sucking to encourage him to suck vigorously again.
Use breast compressions.
If your baby often falls asleep or shifts to comfort sucking without finishing a feed, breast compressions can be used to continuously stimulate milk flow and encourage your baby to suck more effectively.
Foods That Increase Breast Milk Supply
Have you heard of galactagogues? Some foods and herbs are believed to help increase the milk supply of breastfeeding mothers. Some well-known natural galactagogues include:
- Oatmeal / Whole oats
- Brewer’s yeast
- Blessed Thistle
- Goat’s Rue
- Sesame seeds
- Green and leafy vegetables
These herbs and food items may help increase your breast milk naturally. However, before taking any of these, make sure to ask your lactation consultant or doctor for advice. Just like medications, galactagogues, particularly the herbs, have their own effective dosages and side effects when not appropriately taken.
Does using a breast pump increase milk supply?
Pumping right after or in between feedings can help boost your milk supply, especially when your baby isn’t feeding strong or long enough to completely empty your breasts every nursing session.
The goal of pumping is to empty your breasts of milk at more frequent intervals to tell your body to produce more. If done the right way, pumping can speed up the milk production process and increase your milk supply.
To do this, pump until 2 to 5 minutes after you’ve seen the last drops of breast milk. You may also take an additional pumping session to increase the frequency of breast stimulation, even if you do not need to remove milk at all.
Other Things That Can Help Increase Your Breast Milk Supply
Apart from the techniques, let’s not forget that breast milk is made by the mother’s body. Here are some important reminders for mothers aiming to improve breast milk production:
- Make sure that you eat healthy meals and get a good amount of rest every day.
- Increasing your fluid intake won’t increase the breast milk directly, but drinking just enough for your daily needs is essential for your hydration.
- Seek simple ways to relax because stress is bad for your milk supply. Reading your favorite book or a warm bath can do the job.
- Take shifts in taking care of your baby. Talk with your partner or invite a family member to care for your baby for a while so that you’ll have some time to take care of yourself.
Not every mother is blessed with abundant milk supply, but rest assured that help is available. Try out these techniques to help increase your breast milk supply. We know it may be frustrating, but hang in there mom! Breastfeeding needs some time to work out, and you’re not alone. If you need extra assistance, call your doctor or a lactation consultant near you.